Dunning home overrun by more than 60 cats

Some residents of the Northwest Side are now breathing a bit easier after city crews removed more than 60 cats from a house in the Dunning neighborhood.

- Some residents of the Northwest Side are now breathing a bit easier after city crews removed more than 60 cats from a house in the Dunning neighborhood.

And that's just the start.

The home at Roscoe and Melvina is scheduled to be boarded up Tuesday, and animal activists want to make sure all the cats are accounted for.

"Just one whiff by the open basement window and you will start to faint. It's that bad. So this is probably one of the worst we've ever dealt with," said Erica Roewade of PAWS Chicago.

Animal control workers and volunteers from rescue organizations spent most of the day trapping cats outside the Northwest Side home.

For nearly two years, neighbors had been complaining about a colony of feral cats living in the basement and garage of the home.

"It's a very strong odor sometimes, so we haven't been able to use the backyard," said neighbor Marlena Ortiz.

Ortiz and her family live directly next door to the home. She said it's so bad that they've had to keep their windows shut all summer.

"It took a very long time, actually the entire summer. But as long as it's being done now I think that's what counts," Ortiz said.

Since last week they've caught more than 60 cats and believe there are many more, including kittens, still living inside the garbage-strewn home.
"I'm concerned with the quality of life for the children, the kids in the area, the cats. This is an unfortunate situation we're in right now. So we gotta try to resolve this for the betterment of the community and for the animals as well," said Alderman Gilbert Villegas of the 36th Ward.

The house is in foreclosure and is scheduled to be taken over by the bank next month. The owner of the property is a 48-year-old man who neighbors say doesn't live there, but would show up late at night and early mornings to feed the cats.

On Monday, a Cook County judge ordered the city to board up the property. However, the judge also ordered that they conduct a thorough search inside the home to make sure none of the cats are inadvertently trapped inside.
"And that's the concern. There are so many animals in this building, will they get all of them out?" said neighbor Barbara Korus.

Those that have been trapped are going to the city's animal shelter, and then will be taken by various animal rescue organizations and then evaluated for adoption.

"Well they're all very thin. they're fighting for resources. They're undernourished. So some of them are friendly and social. Other cats are more skittish and what we would call semi-feral," said Liz Houtz of Teehouse Human Society.

Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., an alphabet soup of city agencies will descend on the house to clear it of cats and close it down.

The owner of the property was not in court Monday, and the bank that's foreclosing said in court it's not sure yet whether they'll clean out the home or tear it down.

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